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A Model of Christian Charity 1630 

John Winthrop 

1 GOD ALMIGHTY in His most holy and wise providence, hath so disposed of the 
condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and 
eminent in power and dignity; others mean and in submission. 

2 The Reason hereof: 

3 1st Reason. First to hold conformity with the rest of His world, being delighted to 
show forth the glory of his wisdom in the variety and difference of the creatures, and 
the glory of His power in ordering all these differences for the preservation and good of 
the whole, and the glory of His greatness, that as it is the glory of princes to have many 
officers, so this great king will have many stewards, counting himself more honored in 
dispensing his gifts to man by man, than if he did it by his own immediate hands. 

4 2nd Reason. Secondly, that He might have the more occasion to manifest the work 
of his Spirit: first upon the wicked in moderating and restraining them, so that the rich 
and mighty should not eat up the poor, nor the poor and despised rise up against and 
shake off their yoke. Secondly, in the regenerate, in exercising His graces in them, as 
in the great ones, their love, mercy, gentleness, temperance etc., and in the poor and 
inferior sort, their faith, patience, obedience etc. 

5 3rd Reason. Thirdly, that every man might have need of others, and from hence 
they might be all knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection. From 
hence it appears plainly that no man is made more honorable than another or more 
wealthy etc., out of any particular and singular respect to himself, but for the glory of 
his Creator and the common good of the creature, man. Therefore God still reserves 
the property of these gifts to Himself as Ezek. 16:17, He there calls wealth, His gold 
and His silver, and Prov. 3:9, He claims their service as His due, "Honor the Lord with 
thy riches," etc. — All men being thus (by divine providence) ranked into two sorts, rich 
and poor; under the first are comprehended all such as are able to live comfortably by 
their own means duly improved; and all others are poor according to the former 

6 There are two rules whereby we are to walk one towards another: Justice and 
Mercy. These are always distinguished in their act and in their object, yet may they 
both concur in the same subject in each respect; as sometimes there may be an 
occasion of showing mercy to a rich man in some sudden danger or distress, and also 
doing of mere justice to a poor man in regard of some particular contract, etc. 

7 There is likewise a double Law by which we are regulated in our conversation 
towards another. In both the former respects, the Law of Nature and the Law of Grace 
(that is, the moral law or the law of the gospel) to omit the rule of justice as not properly 
belonging to this purpose otherwise than it may fall into consideration in some 
particular cases. By the first of these laws, man as he was enabled so withal is 
commanded to love his neighbor as himself. Upon this ground stands all the precepts 
of the moral law, which concerns our dealings with men. To apply this to the works of 
mercy, this law requires two things. First, that every man afford his help to another in 
every want or distress. 

8 Secondly, that he perform this out of the same affection which makes him careful of 
his own goods, according to the words of our Savior (from Matthew 7:12), whatsoever 

A Model of Christian Charity 1630 

John Winthrop 

ye would that men should do to you. This was practiced by Abraham and Lot in 
entertaining the angels and the old man of Gibea. The law of Grace or of the Gospel 
hath some difference from the former (the law of nature), as in these respects: First, 
the law of nature was given to man in the estate of innocence. This of the Gospel in the 
estate of regeneracy. Secondly, the former propounds one man to another, as the 
same flesh and image of God. This as a brother in Christ also, and in the communion 
of the same Spirit, and so teacheth to put a difference between Christians and others. 
Do good to all, especially to the household of faith. Upon this ground the Israelites 
were to put a difference between the brethren of such as were strangers, though not of 
the Canaanites. 

9 Thirdly, the Law of Nature would give no rules for dealing with enemies, for all are to 
be considered as friends in the state of innocence, but the Gospel commands love to 
an enemy. Proof: If thine enemy hunger, feed him; "Love your enemies... Do good to 
them that hate you" (Matt. 5:44). 

lOThis law of the Gospel propounds likewise a difference of seasons and occasions. 
There is a time when a Christian must sell all and give to the poor, as they did in the 
Apostles' times. There is a time also when Christians (though they give not all yet) 
must give beyond their ability, as they of Macedonia (2 Cor. 8). Likewise, community of 
perils calls for extraordinary liberality, and so doth community in some special service 
for the church. 

11 Lastly, when there is no other means whereby our Christian brother may be relieved 
in his distress, we must help him beyond our ability rather than tempt God in putting 
him upon help by miraculous or extraordinary means. This duty of mercy is exercised in 
the kinds: giving, lending and forgiving (of a debt). 

12Question: What rule shall a man observe in giving in respect of the measure? 

13Answer: If the time and occasion be ordinary he is to give out of his abundance. Let 
him lay aside as God hath blessed him. If the time and occasion be extraordinary, he 
must be ruled by them; taking this withal, that then a man cannot likely do too much, 
especially if he may leave himself and his family under probable means of comfortable 

140bjection: A man must lay up for posterity, the fathers lay up for posterity and 
children, and he is worse than an infidel that provideth not for his own. 

15Answer: For the first, it is plain that it being spoken by way of comparison, it must 
be meant of the ordinary and usual course of fathers, and cannot extend to times and 
occasions extraordinary. For the other place the Apostle speaks against such as 
walked inordinately, and it is without question, that he is worse than an infidel who 
through his own sloth and voluptuousness shall neglect to provide for his family. 

160bjection: "The wise man's eyes are in his head," saith Solomon, "and foreseeth 
the plague;" therefore he must forecast and lay up against evil times when he or his 
may stand in need of all he can gather. 

17 Answer: This very Argument Solomon useth to persuade to liberality (Eccle. 11), 
"Cast thy bread upon the waters... for thou knowest not what evil may come upon the 

A Model of Christian Charity 1630 

John Winthrop 

land." Luke 16:9, "Make you friends of the riches of iniquity..." You will ask how this 
shall be? Very well. For first he that gives to the poor, lends to the Lord and He will 
repay him even in this life an hundredfold to him or his. The righteous is ever merciful 
and lendeth, and his seed enjoyeth the blessing; and besides we know what advantage 
it will be to us in the day of account when many such witnesses shall stand forth for us 
to witness the improvement of our talent. And I would know of those who plead so 
much for laying up for time to come, whether they hold that to be Gospel Matthew 6:19, 
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth," etc. If they acknowledge it, what 
extent will they allow it? If only to those primitive times, let them consider the reason 
whereupon our Savior grounds it. The first is that they are subject to the moth, the rust, 
the thief. Secondly, they will steal away the heart: "where the treasure is there will your 
heart be also." 

18The reasons are of like force at all times. Therefore the exhortation must be general 
and perpetual, with always in respect of the love and affection to riches and in regard 
of the things themselves when any special service for the church or particular distress 
of our brother do call for the use of them; otherwise it is not only lawful but necessary 
to lay up as Joseph did to have ready upon such occasions, as the Lord (whose 
stewards we are of them) shall call for them from us. Christ gives us an instance of the 
first, when he sent his disciples for the donkey, and bids them answer the owner thus, 
"the Lord hath need of him." So when the Tabernacle was to be built, He sends to His 
people to call for their silver and gold, etc., and yields no other reason but that it was 
for His work. When Elisha comes to the widow of Sareptah and finds her preparing to 
make ready her pittance for herself and family, he bids her first provide for him, he 
challenges first God's part which she must first give before she must serve her own 
family. All these teach us that the Lord looks that when He is pleased to call for His 
right in any thing we have, our own interest we have must stand aside till His turn be 
served. For the other, we need look no further then to that of 1 John 3:17, "He who 
hath this world's goods and seeth his brother to need and shuts up his compassion 
from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" Which comes punctually to this 
conclusion: If thy brother be in want and thou canst help him, thou needst not make 
doubt of what thou shouldst do; if thou lovest God thou must help him. 

19Question: What rule must we observe in lending? 

20Answer: Thou must observe whether thy brother hath present or probable or 
possible means of repaying thee, if there be none of those, thou must give him 
according to his necessity, rather then lend him as he requires (requests). If he hath 
present means of repaying thee, thou art to look at him not as an act of mercy, but by 
way of commerce, wherein thou art to walk by the rule of justice; but if his means of 
repaying thee be only probable or possible, then he is an object of thy mercy, thou 
must lend him, though there be danger of losing it. (Deut. 15:7-8): "If any of thy 
brethren be poor ... thou shalt lend him sufficient." That men might not shift off this duty 
by the apparent hazard, He tells them that though the year of Jubilee were at hand 
(when he must remit it, if he were not able to repay it before), yet he must lend him, 
and that cheerfully. It may not grieve thee to give him, saith He. And because some 
might object, why so I should soon impoverish myself and my family, he adds, with all 

A Model of Christian Charity 1630 

John Winthrop 

thy work, etc., for our Savior said (Matt. 5:42), "From him that would borrow of thee 
turn not away." 

21Question: What rule must we observe in forgiving (a debt)? 

22Answer: Whether thou didst lend by way of commerce or in mercy, if he hath 
nothing to pay thee, thou must forgive, (except in cause where thou hast a surety or a 
lawful pledge). Deut. 15:1-2 — Every seventh year the creditor was to quit that which 
he lent to his brother if he were poor, as appears in verse 4. "Save when there shall be 
no poor with thee." In all these and like cases, Christ gives a general rule (Matt. 7:12), 
"Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye the same to them." 

23Question: What rule must we observe and walk by in cause of community of peril? 

24Answer: The same as before, but with more enlargement towards others and less 
respect towards ourselves and our own right. Hence it was that in the primitive Church 
they sold all, had all things in common, neither did any man say that which he 
possessed was his own. Likewise in their return out of the captivity, because the work 
was great for the restoring of the church and the danger of enemies was common to 
all, Nehemiah directs the Jews to liberality and readiness in remitting their debts to their 
brethren, and disposing liberally to such as wanted, and stand not upon their own dues 
which they might have demanded of them. Thus did some of our forefathers in times of 
persecution in England, and so did many of the faithful of other churches, whereof we 
keep an honorable remembrance of them; and it is to be observed that both in 
Scriptures and latter stories of the churches that such as have been most bountiful to 
the poor saints, especially in those extraordinary times and occasions, God hath left 
them highly commended to posterity, as Zaccheus, Cornelius, Dorcas, Bishop Hooper, 
the Cutler of Brussels and divers others. Observe again that the Scripture gives no 
caution to restrain any from being over liberal this way; but all men to the liberal and 
cheerful practice hereof by the sweeter promises; as to instance one for many (Isaiah 
58:6-9) "Is not this the fast I have chosen to loose the bonds of wickedness, to take off 
the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke ... to deal thy 
bread to the hungry and to bring the poor that wander into thy house, when thou seest 
the naked to cover them ... and then shall thy light brake forth as the morning and thy 
health shall grow speedily, thy righteousness shall go before God, and the glory of the 
Lord shalt embrace thee; then thou shall call and the Lord shall answer thee," etc. And 
from Ch. 2:10 (??) "If thou pour out thy soul to the hungry, then shall thy light spring out 
in darkness, and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in draught, 
and make fat thy bones, thou shalt be like a watered garden, and they shalt be of thee 
that shall build the old waste places," etc. On the contrary most heavy curses are laid 
upon such as are straightened towards the Lord and his people (Judg. 5:23), "Curse ye 
Meroshe ... because they came not to help the Lord." He who shutteth his ears from 
hearing the cry of the poor, he shall cry and shall not be heard." (Matt. 25) "Go ye 
cursed into everlasting fire," etc. "I was hungry and ye fed me not." (2 Cor. 9:6) "He that 
soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly." 

25 Having already set forth the practice of mercy according to the rule of God's law, it 
will be useful to lay open the grounds of it also, being the other part of the 

A Model of Christian Charity 1630 

John Winthrop 

Commandment and that is the affection from which this exercise of mercy must arise, 
the Apostle tells us that this love is the fulfilling of the law, not that it is enough to love 
our brother and so no further; but in regard of the excellency of his parts giving any 
motion to the other as the soul to the body and the power it hath to set all the faculties 
at work in the outward exercise of this duty; as when we bid one make the clock strike, 
he doth not lay hand on the hammer, which is the immediate instrument of the sound, 
but sets on work the first mover or main wheel; knowing that will certainly produce the 
sound which he intends. So the way to draw men to the works of mercy, is not by force 
of Argument from the goodness or necessity of the work; for though this cause may 
enforce, a rational mind to some present act of mercy, as is frequent in experience, yet 
it cannot work such a habit in a soul, as shall make it prompt upon all occasions to 
produce the same effect, but by framing these affections of love in the heart which will 
as naturally bring forth the other, as any cause doth produce the effect. 

26The definition which the Scripture gives us of love is this: Love is the bond of 
perfection. First it is a bond or ligament. Secondly, it makes the work perfect. There is 
no body but consists of parts and that which knits these parts together, gives the body 
its perfection, because it makes each part so contiguous to others as thereby they do 
mutually participate with each other, both in strength and infirmity, in pleasure and pain. 
To instance in the most perfect of all bodies: Christ and his Church make one body. 
The several parts of this body considered a part before they were united, were as 
disproportionate and as much disordering as so many contrary qualities or elements, 
but when Christ comes, and by his spirit and love knits all these parts to himself and 
each to other, it is become the most perfect and best proportioned body in the world 
(Eph. 4:15-16). Christ, by whom all the body being knit together by every joint for the 
furniture thereof, according to the effectual power which is in the measure of every 
perfection of parts, a glorious body without spot or wrinkle; the ligaments hereof being 
Christ, or his love, for Christ is love (1 John 4:8). So this definition is right. Love is the 
bond of perfection. 

27 From hence we may frame these conclusions: 

28First of all, true Christians are of one body in Christ (1 Cor. 12). Ye are the body of 
Christ and members of their part. All the parts of this body being thus united are made 
so contiguous in a special relation as they must needs partake of each other's strength 
and infirmity; joy and sorrow, weal and woe. If one member suffers, all suffer with it, if 
one be in honor, all rejoice with it. 

29 Secondly, the ligaments of this body which knit together are love. 

30Thirdly, no body can be perfect which wants its proper ligament. 

31 Fourthly, All the parts of this body being thus united are made so contiguous in a 
special relation as they must needs partake of each other's strength and infirmity, joy 
and sorrow, weal and woe. (1 Cor. 12:26) If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one 
be in honor, all rejoice with it. 

32 Fifthly, this sensitivity and sympathy of each other's conditions will necessarily infuse 
into each part a native desire and endeavor, to strengthen, defend, preserve and 
comfort the other. To insist a little on this conclusion being the product of all the former, 

A Model of Christian Charity 1630 

John Winthrop 

the truth hereof will appear both by precept and pattern. 1 John 3:16, "We ought to lay 
down our lives for the brethren." Gal. 6:2, "Bear ye one another's burden's and so fulfill 
the law of Christ." 

33 For patterns we have that first of our Savior who, out of his good will in obedience to 
his father, becoming a part of this body and being knit with it in the bond of love, found 
such a native sensitivity of our infirmities and sorrows as he willingly yielded himself to 
death to ease the infirmities of the rest of his body, and so healed their sorrows. From 
the like sympathy of parts did the Apostles and many thousands of the Saints lay down 
their lives for Christ. Again the like we may see in the members of this body among 
themselves. Rom. 9 — Paul could have been contented to have been separated from 
Christ, that the Jews might not be cut off from the body. It is very observable what he 
professeth of his affectionate partaking with every member; "Who is weak (saith he) 
and I am not weak? Who is offended and I burn not?" And again (2 Cor. 7:13), 
"Therefore we are comforted because ye were comforted." Of Epaphroditus he 
speaketh (Phil. 2:25-30) that he regarded not his own life to do him service. So Phoebe 
and others are called the servants of the church. Now it is apparent that they served 
not for wages, or by constraint, but out of love. The like we shall find in the histories of 
the church, in all ages; the sweet sympathy of affections which was in the members of 
this body one towards another; their cheerfulness in serving and suffering together; 
how liberal they were without repining, harborers without grudging, and helpful without 
reproaching; and all from hence, because they had fervent love amongst them; which 
only makes the practice of mercy constant and easy. 

34The next consideration is how this love comes to be wrought. Adam in his first estate 
was a perfect model of mankind in all their generations, and in him this love was 
perfected in regard of the habit. But Adam, himself rent from his Creator, rent all his 
posterity also one from another; whence it comes that every man is born with this 
principle in him to love and seek himself only, and thus a man continueth till Christ 
comes and takes possession of the soul and infuseth another principle, love to God 
and our brother, and this latter having continual supply from Christ, as the head and 
root by which he is united, gets predominant in the soul, so by little and little expels the 
former. 1 John 4:7 — Love cometh of God and every one that loveth is born of God, so 
that this love is the fruit of the new birth, and none can have it but the new creature. 
Now when this quality is thus formed in the souls of men, it works like the Spirit upon 
the dry bones. Ezek. 37:7 — "Bone came to bone." It gathers together the scattered 
bones, or perfect old man Adam, and knits them into one body again in Christ, whereby 
a man is become again a living soul. 

35The third consideration is concerning the exercise of this love, which is twofold, 
inward or outward. The outward hath been handled in the former preface of this 
discourse. From unfolding the other we must take in our way that maxim of philosophy, 
"simile simili gaudet," or like will to like; for as of things which are turned with 
disaffection to each other, the ground of it is from a dissimilitude or arising from the 
contrary or different nature of the things themselves; for the ground of love is an 
apprehension of some resemblance in the things loved to that which affects it. This is 

A Model of Christian Charity 1630 

John Winthrop 

the cause why the Lord loves the creature, so far as it hath any of his Image in it; He 
loves his elect because they are like Himself, He beholds them in His beloved son. 

36So a mother loves her child, because she thoroughly conceives a resemblance of 
herself in it. Thus it is between the members of Christ; each discerns, by the work of 
the Spirit, his own Image and resemblance in another, and therefore cannot but love 
him as he loves himself. Now when the soul, which is of a sociable nature, finds 
anything like to itself, it is like Adam when Eve was brought to him. She must be one 
with himself. This is flesh of my flesh (saith he) and bone of my bone. So the soul 
conceives a great delight in it; therefore she desires nearness and familiarity with it. 
She hath a great propensity to do it good and receives such content in it, as fearing the 
miscarriage of her beloved, she bestows it in the inmost closet of her heart. She will not 
endure that it shall want any good which she can give it. If by occasion she be 
withdrawn from the company of it, she is still looking towards the place where she left 
her beloved. If she heard it groan, she is with it presently. If she find it sad and 
disconsolate, she sighs and moans with it. She hath no such joy as to see her beloved 
merry and thriving. If she see it wronged, she cannot hear it without passion. She sets 
no bounds to her affections, nor hath any thought of reward. She finds recompense 
enough in the exercise of her love towards it. 

37 We may see this acted to life in Jonathan and David. Jonathan a valiant man 
endued with the spirit of love, so soon as he discovered the same spirit in David had 
presently his heart knit to him by this ligament of love; so that it is said he loved him as 
his own soul, he takes so great pleasure in him, that he strips himself to adorn his 
beloved. His father's kingdom was not so precious to him as his beloved David, David 
shall have it with all his heart. Himself desires no more but that he may be near to him 
to rejoice in his good. He chooseth to converse with him in the wilderness even to the 
hazard of his own life, rather than with the great Courtiers in his father's Palace. When 
he sees danger towards him, he spares neither rare pains nor peril to direct it. When 
injury was offered his beloved David, he would not bear it, though from his own father. 
And when they must part for a season only, they thought their hearts would have broke 
for sorrow, had not their affections found vent by abundance of tears. Other instances 
might be brought to show the nature of this affection; as of Ruth and Naomi, and many 
others; but this truth is cleared enough. If any shall object that it is not possible that 
love shall be bred or upheld without hope of requital, it is granted; but that is not our 
cause; for this love is always under reward. It never gives, but it always receives with 

38 First in regard that among the members of the same body, love and affection are 
reciprocal in a most equal and sweet kind of commerce. 

39 Secondly, in regard of the pleasure and content that the exercise of love carries with 
it, as we may see in the natural body. The mouth is at all